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Response to Ex-Mormon Atheists Part 2

September 17, 2008

This blog has mostly focused on my exploration of the teachings of Mormonism and comparisons between Mormonism and Biblical Christianity. As I’ve been exploring Mormonism, however, I have discovered a disturbing trend all over cyberspace. Many of the “anti-Mormon” sites are fueled by disillusioned ex-Mormons who have discovered in their late twenties or thirties that “Santa Claus isn’t real” and now they are coming to the conclusion (a little hastily perhaps? without full investigation of the evidence?) that all religions are based on myths and legends.

This blog is part 2 of my attempt to address this crowd and is in direct response to my friendly atheist blogger who appears to be a most pleasant chap 🙂 Part 1 of my case against atheism is here.

I would like to invite anyone who is sincerely interested in investigating the truth to weigh the objective evidences for the reliability of the Bible. There are many sites on the internet that set forth the arguments regarding the faithful transmission of the OT scribes and the fact that the NT manuscripts are in 99.5% agreement. There is strong evidence that we have a faithful rendering of the original translation with minor, insignificant, copyist variations.

However, for those who believe the Bible may be reliable, but is merely a fictional story, I have a few questions related to Fulfilled Prophecy. How does an atheist/agnostic intellectually contend with the modern science of probability?

The following probabilities are taken from Peter Stoner in Science Speaks (Moody Press, 1963) to show that coincidence is ruled out by the science of probability. Stoner says that by using the modern science of probability in reference to eight prophecies, “we find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 1017.” That would be 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000. In order to help us comprehend this staggering probability, Stoner illustrates it by supposing that “we take 1017 silver dollars and lay them on the face of Texas. They will cover all of the state two feet deep.

Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state. Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one. What chance would he have of getting the right one? Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man.”

Stoner considers 48 prophecies and says, “we find the chance that any one man fulfilled all 48 prophecies to be 1 in 10157, or 1 in

100,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,
000,000,000,000, 000, 000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

The estimated number of electrons in the universe is around 1079. It should be quite evident that Jesus did not fulfill the prophecies by accident.

(from http://www.carm.org/bible/prophecy.htm)

Here are just a few of the very specific prophecies that Jesus fulfilled:

(1) Some time before 500 B.C. the prophet Daniel proclaimed that Israel’s long-awaited Messiah would begin his public ministry 483 years after the issuing of a decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25-26). He further predicted that the Messiah would be “cut off,” killed, and that this event would take place prior to a second destruction of Jerusalem. Abundant documentation shows that these prophecies were perfectly fulfilled in the life (and crucifixion) of Jesus Christ. The decree regarding the restoration of Jerusalem was issued by Persia’s King Artaxerxes to the Hebrew priest Ezra in 458 B.C., 483 years later the ministry of Jesus Christ began in Galilee. (Remember that due to calendar changes, the date for the start of Christ’s ministry is set by most historians at about 26 A.D. Also note that from 1 B.C. to 1 A.D. is just one year.) Jesus’ crucifixion occurred only a few years later, and about four decades later, in 70 A.D. came the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus.

(Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 105.)*


(2) In approximately 700 B.C. the prophet Micah named the tiny village of Bethlehem as the birthplace of Israel’s Messiah (Micah 5:2). The fulfillment of this prophecy in the birth of Christ is one of the most widely known and widely celebrated facts in history.

(Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 105.)


(3) In the fifth century B.C. a prophet named Zechariah declared that the Messiah would be betrayed for the price of a slave—thirty pieces of silver, according to Jewish law-and also that this money would be used to buy a burial ground for Jerusalem’s poor foreigners (Zechariah 11:12-13). Bible writers and secular historians both record thirty pieces of silver as the sum paid to Judas Iscariot for betraying Jesus, and they indicate that the money went to purchase a “potter’s field,” used—just as predicted—for the burial of poor aliens (Matthew 27:3-10).

(Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 1011.)


(4) Some 400 years before crucifixion was invented, both Israel’s King David and the prophet Zechariah described the Messiah’s death in words that perfectly depict that mode of execution. Further, they said that the body would be pierced and that none of the bones would be broken, contrary to customary procedure in cases of crucifixion (Psalm 22 and 34:20; Zechariah 12:10). Again, historians and New Testament writers confirm the fulfillment: Jesus of Nazareth died on a Roman cross, and his extraordinarily quick death eliminated the need for the usual breaking of bones. A spear was thrust into his side to verify that he was, indeed, dead.

(Probability of chance fulfillment = 1 in 1013.)

(from http://www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics/prophecy.shtml)

If someone believes the Old Testament prophecies were written AFTER Jesus fulfilled them, the scientific process of Radio Carbon dating shows the Dead Sea Scrolls to be written prior to Jesus’ birth. Further, the Jews who do not believe Jesus is the Messiah are the keepers-of-record for the OT and they would never have allowed a revision of their OT texts to corroborate the Christians’ “story.”

If someone believes Jesus set out to fulfill the OT prophecies on purpose, please explain how it is possible to choose where you will be born or under what type of circumstances.

Finally, if it was all just made-up, what motivated the early followers of Christianity to endure horrible Roman persecutions and death for a fictional story?

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. March 7, 2010 9:36 am

    There are several problems with this line of reasoning:

    The first (and most glaring) is that the raw numbers are not justified. Pick one at random (say #3). I’m willing to believe it’s unlikely, but specifically a probability of 1 in 10^11? Where did this number come from? Where are the studies with population and behavioral statistics to back this up?

    The second is that you’re reasoning backwards. Instead of starting with a prediction and then checking the results, you’ve started from the conclusion and cherry-picked the positive evidence for your conclusion (ignoring contrary evidence, such as Jesus’ prediction that his second coming would take place during the lifetimes of the NT characters).

    Third, if the author just multiplies the probabilities together, then s/he’s assuming that the fulfilled prophecies are totally independent. In other words, given that prophecy X is fulfilled, that may influence the likelihood of prophecy Y being fulfilled — and that’s not taken into account. Of course, it’s difficult to calculate how the different prophecies affect one another numerically (especially considering that the precise numbers were just invented to begin with).

  2. March 7, 2010 5:17 pm

    Hi Chanson, thanks for your comment. Seeing as how I wrote this blog post over a year and a half ago… I will have to refresh my memory on this. = ) I’m not a mathmetician, but I can remember studying probability theories.

    And I totally know what you mean! I don’t get probability theories at all. I was just scratching my head yesterday while reading an article, trying to figure out how the probability that life arose by random natural processes has been calculated at 10^-1018. But this was calculated by some expert in the field of evolutionary and computational biology who is way smarter than me. =) http://www.biology-direct.com/content/2/1/15

    Anyway, I found Peter Stoner’s book (Science Speaks) online and here’s what it says about the method for arriving at these calculations:

    “The Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship at Pasadena City College sponsored a class in Christian evidences. One section of the work of this class was to consider the evidence produced by the fulfilled prophecies referring to the first advent of Christ. The students were asked to be very conservative in their probability estimates. They discussed each prophecy at length, bringing out various conditions which might affect the probability of any man fulfilling it. After discussion, the students agreed unanimously on a definite estimate as being both reasonable and conservative. At the end of the evaluations the students expressed their feelings thus: If any one were able to enter into the discussions and help in placing the estimates, as they had done, that person would certainly agree that the estimates were conservative. The estimates used in this chapter are a combination of the estimates given by this class on Christian evidences combined with estimates given me later by some twelve different classes of college students, representing more than 600 students. I have carefully weighed the estimates and have changed some to make them more conservative. If the reader does not agree with the estimates given, he may make his own estimates and then carry them through to their logical conclusions.”

    (http://sciencespeaks.dstoner.net/Christ_of_Prophecy.html#c9 accessed March 7, 2010).

    The forward for the book says this:

    The manuscript for Science Speaks has been carefully reviewed by a committee of the American Scientific Affiliation members and by the Executive Council of the same group and has been found, in general, to be dependable and accurate in regard to the scientific material presented. The mathematical analysis included is based upon principles of probability which are thoroughly sound and Professor Stoner has applied these principles in a proper and convincing way.

    American Scientific Affiliation
    H. HAROLD HARTZLER, Ph.D.
    Secretary-Treasurer
    Goshen College, Ind.

    (http://sciencespeaks.dstoner.net/#c2 accessed March 7, 2010)

  3. March 8, 2010 7:47 pm

    Ah, sorry for bringing up an old post and linking to it in Sunday in Outer Blogness as though it were new.

    As you probably know, I found your blog because of the “Brodies”, and just started reading it recently. A post about exmo atheists showed up in my RSS reader (linking to some other posts on the subject), and this post was the most amusing of the lot. The thing is that I try to provide some balance in SiOB by linking to a variety of points of view, but I should have been more careful to just link to the most recent of your posts on the subject.

  4. November 23, 2010 7:29 am

    “If someone believes Jesus set out to fulfill the OT prophecies on purpose, please explain how it is possible to choose where you will be born or under what type of circumstances.”

    Easy. I was also born in Bethlehem around 1 A.D. (and I have Scripture to prove it)

    On the more serious note;

    “If someone believes the Old Testament prophecies were written AFTER Jesus fulfilled them”

    Nobody believes that. (classic strawman)

    “Finally, if it was all just made-up, what motivated the early followers of Christianity to endure horrible Roman persecutions and death for a fictional story?”

    What motivated David Koresh and his followers in Waco?

    And what early Christians? First known mentioning of Christ/Christians comes from beginning of 2nd (yes, second) century (which also explains this: “in 70 A.D. came the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus”)

    P.S.”Israel’s King David”, there is no archeo. evidence for either Solomon or David kingdoms. In fact at the time of Solomon area of his OT kingdom was occupied by different entities (furthermore “bordering” countries never even mention Israel)

  5. November 23, 2010 7:55 am

    “First known mentioning of Christ/Christians comes from beginning of 2nd (yes, second) century”

    That’s extra-biblical sources (just to be clear).

  6. June 10, 2012 10:39 pm

    This reponse is not about Mormonism,it is about the idea that Jesus fulfilled O.T.prophecies.To begin with can anyone prove with proof and evidence that the miracle worker,crucified and resurrected from the dead Jesus ever existed as a flesh and blood person?I realize there were many people named Jesus in the first century,Josephus mentions 19 different people named Jesus,so it’s not just any Jesus i want you to prove,it is the miracle worker,crucified and resurrected from the dead Jesus you need to prove.Now lets look at supposed prophecies fulfilled.
    The fact is there are none fulfilled because they were never prophecies to begin with.What the 4 gospel writers did was pull lines and verses out of context and make them seem prophecies fulfilled.Here are 2 quick examples.#1.Isa:14 was never,ever a prophecy about Jesus some 700 years later,first v.14 is completely pulled out of context with surrounding verses and made to stand alone.#2.The Hebrew word “Almah”is translated as virgin it is a wrong translation and should be translated “young woman”or “maiden”without regard to whether she was a virgin.
    iF the writer had intended it to be a sexual virgin he would have used the Hebrew word “Bethulah”which always means a sexual virgin,the writer of Isaiah knows the difference in those 2 Hebrew words,because elsewhere in the book of Isaiah when he meant a sexual virgin he used the word Bethulah.Isa.7:11 says Ahaz sought a sign,the sign was v.14,what good would it do Ahaz to know a child was to be born 700 years later?Ahaz and the House of Israel were about to be attacked by Syria and Ephraim(Isa.7:1-6) some child 700 years later would mean nothing to him.If you read Isa.7:1 in context on through the whole chapter then contrinue reading to Isa.8:8 you see the child concieved in chap.8:3 then you see him named Immanuel in v.8.Isa.7:14 was never ever a prophecy of Jesus supposedly born of a virgin 700 years later.verses lso
    Now let’s look at Micah 5:2.It is pulled out of context with surrounding verses also.Read Micah 5:1-6 in context this is about a milatary leader which Jesus never was.Verse 1 mentions troops v.6 shows the land of Assyria wasted by war,this is not a Messiah prophecy.In verse 2 you read the words Bethlehem Ephratah when those 2 words are connected together it never means the town of Bethlehem it means the man named Bethlehem who started a cult called Bethlehem Ephratah that you read of in Deut.and in the book of Ruth.The writer of the book of Matthew had dozens of screw ups in the book of Matthew.Notice in Matt.2:6 he deliberately leaves out the word Ephratah and adds the word Juda,deliberatley leaving out Ephratah to make it sound like it meant the town of Bethlehem.Another of Mathews mistakes is in Matt.21:2-5,he mis-understands Zech.9:9 and thinks Jesus should ride sitting on an ass and a colt the foal of an ass.Don’t you think Jesus looked a little strange straddling 2 donkeys?
    You can go through every supposed O.T.prophecy that the gospels and christianity claims Jesus fulfilled and see they are pulled out of context or never was a prophecy to begin with.So supposed prophecies fulfilled does nothing to prove a historic flesh and blood Jesus.
    Sincerely,without malice,just real truth,
    Jay Osborne

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